2009-02-06

Live CNN video turns your PC into a P2P server

Here's something I think should get a little more attention. According to Windows Secrets, CNN's live video streaming application turns your PC into a peer-to-peer video server, using your PC to stream the video to other PCs as well.

Personally, I don't find anything wrong with the concept. World of Warcraft uses similar technology to improve the speed of distribution of their software updates. It's what P2P tech is good for. Windows Secrets takes exception to the fact that CNN isn't exactly forthcoming about what is happening, though, and rightly so. If they came out and said what was happening when you were asked to install the "Octoshape add-in for Adobe Flash Player", then it would be less of an issue — people tend to be much more forgiving if you're up front about what you're doing. (Granted, there are other valid concerns about CNN's use of Octoshape posted there, but I won't address those here.)

What makes this such a large concern is that they are using other people's bandwidth, without their notification or explicit consent, at a time where many people's ISPs are capping their usage. The ISPs have declared that we must be conscious of how much data we consume and produce. Having an application that is uploading up to three times as much data as it's downloading, especially without our knowledge, is an issue, when every byte is being counted.

On the one hand, I fully support the concept of new technologies that help to distribute content efficiently. I don't think Blizzard is wrong to use it in distributing WoW patches, and I don't think CNN is wrong to use it in distributing video. (Again, the other issues that Windows Secrets brings up — specifically, "deceptive marketing", "ludicrous license terms", "security vulnerabilities", etc., are worth criticism, but are out of scope here.) However, they're trying to shift the cost to the end users, and we may not have the cost to spare, now that we're being limited.

I know it probably seems odd to hear me complain about bandwidth caps when mine is so large compared to what I use, but as I've said before, knowing I have a limit makes me much more conscious of the throughput I generate, and it makes me much more sensitive to anything that increases that value. Besides, just because I'm fortunate to have a wide use-to-limit margin doesn't mean everyone else is — or that I'll always be, for that matter.

1 comment:

Jim said...

This is quite interesting. I have a huge pipe upstream and downstream like you but I don't see it using more that 500 kbps bandwidth sending up. That seems to be the bandwidth that the stream is.